Sunday, February 8, 2015

Notes on the class struggle in Metro Atlanta


11st 9lb (but can lose 3lb pronto on Trader Joe's low fat chicken noodle soup diet); alcohol units 0; Jamaican Woodbines 3(vg); hamburgers 12.


Left Shark (left)

The New England Patriots win Superbowl 49 with a game changing interception by Malcolm Butler on the 51st parallel (or whatever they say in American Football), Katy Perry's Left Shark jigs out of time to Teenage Dream, Whitney Houston's daughter lies in a medically induced coma at Emory University Hospital, and a solargraphy camera causes a bomb scare during the Monday commute home.  Fortunately, as a confirmed pedestrian in the car clogged city of Atlanta, I was unaffected by the closing of the Downtown Connector and/or any other terror related traffic jams on the 14th Street bridge. 


However, a leading national research group, Smart Growth America, recently ranked Atlanta the deadliest city in the nation for pedestrians. Even still, one of the joys of living on foot is seeing a side of this city that the ambivalent American man, or woman, passing through in a car does not. It is a tale of two geographies. There is urban renewal.  Social regeneration. But there's also class conflict, gentrification, poverty and homelessness -- an urban phenomenon that always seems to affect the elderly, male, African-American demographic in particular.  Yet I would rather be living here, and seeing all of this, in the relatively anonymous climes of Atlanta, than New York, the "third-rate Babylon" of H.L. Mencken. New York is teeming with Brits, around 120,000 of them, and I don't want to be mixing with Brits in the USA. No siree.


Stormtroopers on Peachtree: Dragon Con 2014

Atlanta topped another poll this week. The city too busy to hate was just voted the"nerdiest" city in the USA. This is because the fast growing metropolis plays host to assorted comic book, anime, computer game and sci-fi conventions. Books, in a nation as literary as America, are also considered nerdish, and the capital city of the Southeast topped the list for the most bookstores -- 1 for every 2,529 people. So if you are an American nerd, or a bookworm, it seems that Atlanta is the right place for you to live.  


It's coming some time and maybe?

But there has been a slightly disturbing development of late in the so-called city of the nerds.  Many people I have met seem to think that England has being taken over by Muslim fanatics. Don't believe that rubbish on Fox News, I say in defense of the multicultural homeland, it's not like that one bit. Then a normal looking bloke at the local gym asked if Mohammed was the most popular name for a boy in the UK. I reassured him that it was Oliver for a boy and Olivia for a girl. And a benign looking blonde on the street asked, in a very hushed tone, if England had been swamped by "radical Islamists in burkas" who refused to integrate or speak the language. I laughed it off and told her that the biggest problem was Russian billionaires buying up all the nice houses in Notting Hill.


Lawrence of Atlanta

That was not the end of it. "Muslims cause all the problems in the world," said another bloke from the hood, a clean-cut IT man in tan slacks and oxblood loafers. "I think we need to wipe those guys out. The world would be a better place without them, that's for sure." Because the natives of Terminus are jumpy about Muslims I am policing my wardrobe. The shemagh scarf, the Begadi Keffiyeh with the fading red and white colors of the PLO (pictured above), is staying indoors for this season and the foreseeable future.   


The incident happened a week after the impeachment of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.  Thailand has been under martial law since the military seized power in a May 2014 coup that toppled her elected government.

I have been keeping an eye on events on the other side of the world, too. Things have been kicking off in Bangkok, and not far from our old home. A pair of crude pipe bombs rocked Siam Paragorn, an upscale shopping mall in the capital. Siam Paragon was the world's most photographed location on Instagram in 2013 and has more than 100,000 Thai and foreign visitors a day. The bombing was the first bit of violence in Bangkok since the Military seized power on May 22, 2014. Thankfully, there was only one person injured and Security Forces said the devices were designed to sow panic and not to kill. Needless to say, I am so glad that we don't live in Bangkok anymore. All we have to worry about in Atlanta are the negligent discharges of crazed gun owners and 2am shoot-outs at Waffle House.



I sign off this week with breaking news. True crime, of the tragic American quality, hit the headlines tonight. A shooting in nearby Douglas County left five people dead. Seven victims were found at the scene, including two children. The "shooter," an adult male, was found injured and transported to hospital, where he later died of self-inflicted wounds. He was the estranged husband of the woman who lived in the home with their five children and her boyfriend. "It tears at your heart. It doesn't make any sense," said Lt. Daniel of the Douglas County Sheriff's Department. He's quite right. It never does.


Police investigate the scene in Douglasville, Georgia.